Post 7 — Filariasis and vaccinations

Larry and Jean went through the stack of National Geographics to try to find articles that would help them figure out exactly what they had signed on for. Aside from Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa and some mentions in Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener, there just wasn’t that much written about the place.

Kathy brought the Michener book to the dinner table one night. “There’s a story in here about a man who had a disease called filariasis,” she said. “It says his scrotum weighed over seventy pounds and he had to carry it around in a wheelbarrow. Daddy, will we get filariasis? Where’s my scrotum?” They all turned expectantly to their father, who had gone even paler than the man with the wheelbarrow.

Even scarier than that disease was the series of vaccines they had to get in order to avoid carrying their enlarged scrotums around. Because the timetable for leaving was barely a month, all the shots were administered in one doctor’s visit. Two adults, four kids, two nurses, and eighteen separate syringes were involved. There was a fair amount of sobbing but no fainting, and all the girls felt very brave as they left the office, their tongues red from the lollipop bribes they had received. When the family returned from the appointment, the girls saw that a neighborhood pick-up baseball game had begun in their absence and ran to join in. It was only when an easy pop fly landed at Kathy’s feet that they realized none of them could lift their arms.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity and questions while the family tried to figure out what household items they would need to survive two years on a tropical island. The government would pay to ship the goods overseas, but they would have to decide what should go in the large wooden crate. The piano was a yes, but the cardboard play kitchen would sadly be left behind. They wouldn’t need their winter coats, but the possibility that they might be living in a grass hut made Larry wonder if bringing the washing machine was practical. “I don’t care if we’re going to be living on the beach,” Jean said. “The washing machine is going.”

Most of the furniture would stay because the small house would be rented while they were gone, with Larry’s next door father/neighbor managing the property. But the things that make everyday life possible—clothing, records, books, cooking utensils, troll dolls—all were boxed up and taken away by a large moving truck. The government assured them that their precious items would be carefully crated and then shipped by boat. The estimated arrival time was 4-6 weeks.

9/18/64

We have been trying to get a line on our household things but the only thing we have been able to find out hasn’t been too hopeful. The shipping office has a copy of a letter saying they “hoped” our things would be leaving the states on the third of October! Not even left yet – Oy. The girls have three dresses apiece and me without a sewing machine.                                 Jean

 

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